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Weekday Getaways to State Parks
Last Updated: 9/10/2013
By Dennis McCann
With overbooked lifestyles and packed family schedules, even relaxation can take on a frantic pace, leaving some Wisconsin state parks crowded and hectic on prime summer weekends. For more solitude and quiet, plan visits for off-peak times, either midweek or in shoulder seasons. “The trails are less congested, the beaches are less congested, and campgrounds are less congested,” says DNR trails coordinator Peter Biermeier. Whether that’s three reasons in one or one in three, it’s good advice, especially when midweek lodging specials are added to the mix. Whether you want to go biking, hiking or camping, here are five parks to consider for your next weekday getaway.
Devil’s Lake is one of the busiest state parks but on weekdays, says naturalist Dave Bouché’. “You’re not going to be contending with the large day use we get on weekends and fewer people will be up on the trails.” Even last-minute campsites are often available if you want to go camping. Bouché’ conducts daily morning nature programs on topics from Ice Age geology to turkey vulture habits. In Baraboo, Circus World Museum hosts daily performances during the summer, adding a family-friendly activity to the mix.
The 411-acre park in Wisconsin Swiss country is filled with campers on weekends, says manager Steve Johnston, but mid-week “you’re getting the park to yourself.” Bicyclists taking part in the “Bike Green County” ride program, which offers some mid-week lodging discounts, can access the park from the Sugar River State Trail. Even staff members get in on the hiking fun—when the park is less crowded, they have time to lead short nature hikes. Some visitors will appreciate that even New Glarus’ Swiss-themed shops are less crowded. “You get more time to interact with the storekeepers, most of whom are local,” says Johnston.
The quiet and curvy Kickapoo River that passes by this scenic park in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area can get highway-busy on weekends, but quiet reigns midweek. Take in the bucolic hill and valley views from Mt. Pisgah, especially when fall colors wrap the land, or circle the “mountain” on the park’s miles of hiking trails. During weekdays, area cheese factories are open for tours, as are the Amish farms that offer everything from quilts to bentwood rockers to brown hen eggs along Highway 33. Another vote for midweek visits? The Amish won’t sell on Sundays.
This park, where the Trempealeau River meets the Mississippi, has its community of campers on summer weekends, manager Jim Thompson said, but on weekdays and in spring and fall “you don’t see many people. It’s quite quiet.” Because it adjoins the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge, the park is a great place to watch migratory birds; others come to take in the river, its crawling barge traffic and to visit the busy lock and dam nearby. Bicyclists can reach the park from the Great River State Trail. One more bonus of visiting midweek: a better chance of snaring a table at the popular Trempealeau Hotel.
Waterfalls are best enjoyed with a bit of elbowroom. Seven miles south of Superior, this state park offers waterfalls and rapids along the Amnicon River, some accessible from a covered footbridge or, on hot summer days, from water-splashed rocks. The park offers nature programs for kids and naturalist-led hikes and programs for visitors of all ages. For a weekday “twofer,” visitors can also take in Wisconsin’s largest waterfall, Big Manitou Falls in nearby Pattison State Park, where the racing Black River drops a spectacular 165 foamy feet.
Dennis McCann, who covered Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 25 years, is a freelance writer based in Bayfield. Content produced in cooperation with Wisconsin Trails, www.WisconsinTrails.com.This entry was posted in Things to Do